Audio Remasterer: Michael Schwabe.
After two albums under the Elektric Music banner, Karl Bartos released Communication under his own name. It's not surprising, as Communication is pretty much a one-man show -- everything you hear was programmed, played, and performed by Bartos himself. In a lot of ways, it's like Bartos is stuck in the past: the link to his work in Kraftwerk is very evident, from the thwipping sound of the percussion to the keyboard sounds and melodic lines, and though the sound has been updated to sound more melodic and emotional, it seems to update the sound only so far as mid-'80s electro-pop, like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark or Pet Shop Boys. Both of these are natural touchstones for Bartos, having worked with members of both groups through the '90s -- Andy McClusky guested on Elektric Music's first album, and Bartos worked with Neil Tennant on the second Electronic album -- but it still doesn't change the fact that, musically speaking, Communication is more about nostalgia than innovation. The over-reliance on computerized vocals certainly doesn't make the case for modernity -- it was a Kraftwerk staple in the '70s, after all -- but even worse, it underscores the fact that Bartos is actually a pretty good vocalist; "15 Minutes of Fame" and "Life" are two of the best cuts here. (Elsewhere on the record the lyrics can get pretty silly, especially when Bartos tries to meditate on how technology intersects with life, such as "Electronic Apeman" and "Cyberspace.") It would be easy to dismiss the album if it weren't so catchy: no matter how cheeseball and dated a lot of the material here sounds, it sticks in your head. ~ Sean Carruthers